ST. PAUL, Minn. — Dion Lewis had quite a bumpy road to where he is now. It's a road that went right through the Linc.
Lewis, now a standout tailback with the Patriots, was the Eagles' fifth-round draft pick in 2011 and spent two years backing up his close friend and fellow Pitt Panther product LeSean McCoy before eventually landing in New England in 2015 and becoming the Patriots' feature back this year.
“That’s what it’s all about, just being resilient," Lewis said Monday during the NFL's Opening Night at the Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild.
"Just keep pushing, no matter how many people doubt you. Believe in yourself and keep pushing and taking advantage of the opportunities."
All Lewis had to show for his two years with the Eagles was 36 carries for 171 yards and two touchdowns, plus three catches for 21 yards.
“It was good," he said. "Learned a lot of things being behind Shady for a couple years. That [experience] definitely helped make me a better player."
The Eagles traded Lewis to the Browns for Emmanuel Acho in the spring of 2013 but he missed the entire season with a broken leg.
Then it was off to the Colts in 2014, but they released him before the season began.
He resurfaced in the summer of 2015 with the Patriots but played sparingly until this year, when he won the starting running back job in training camp and had a big year, averaging 5.0 yards per carry for 896 yards, catching 32 passes for 214 yards and scoring nine touchdowns.
He became the first Patriot since Antowain Smith in 2002 with 800 rushing yards and 30 catches in a season, and his 5.0 rushing average led the NFL.
In his seventh season, he finally established himself as one of the NFL's most talented backs.
“It was frustrating at times," Lewis said of his difficult journey. "But just got to stay the course, keep working hard and keep believing in yourself."
Lewis' career rushing average of 4.8 yards per carry is sixth best among active running backs.
He'll take on the NFL's No. 1 rush defense on Sunday when he faces his former team in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
“Their front four is very disruptive," said Lewis, who played with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry.
"Those guys, B.G., Fletch, those guys get into the backfield, and they give their linebackers easy lanes to run through and make tackles. It’s going to be a challenge."